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Role of zero point energy in promoting ice formation in a spherical drop of water

Parashar, P., Shajesh, K.V., Milton, K.A., Parsons, D.F.ORCID: 0000-0002-3956-6031, Brevik, I. and Boström, M. (2019) Role of zero point energy in promoting ice formation in a spherical drop of water. Physical Review Research, 1 (3). Article 033210.

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We demonstrate that the Lifshitz interaction energy (excluding the self-energies of the inner and outer spherical regions) for three concentric spherical dielectric media can be evaluated easily using the immense computation power in recent processors relative to those of a few decades ago. As a prototype, we compute the Lifshitz interaction energy for a spherical shell of water immersed in water vapor of infinite extent while enclosing a spherical ball of ice inside the shell such that two concentric spherical interfaces are formed: one between solid ice and liquid water and the other between liquid water and gaseous vapor. We evaluate the Lifshitz interaction energy for the above configuration at the triple point of water when the solid, liquid, and gaseous states of water coexist and thus extend the analysis of Elbaum and Schick [M. Elbaum and M. Schick, Phys. Rev. Lett. 66, 1713 (1991)] to spherical configurations. We find that when the Lifshitz energy contributes dominantly to the total energy of this system, which is often the case when electrostatic interactions are absent, a drop of water surrounded by vapor of infinite extent is not stable at the triple point. This instability, which is a manifestation of the quantum fluctuations in the medium, will promote the formation of ice in water, which will then grow in size indefinitely. This is a consequence of the finding here that the Lifshitz energy is minimized for a large (micrometer-size) radius of the ice ball and small (nanometer size) thickness of the water shell surrounding the ice. These results might be relevant to the formation of hail in thunderclouds. These results are tentative in that the self-energies are omitted; surface tension and nucleation energy are not considered.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Chemistry and Physics
Publisher: American Physical Society
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